Hate speech on the rise in Bulgaria - civil society

Expression

Bulgarian civil society reports that hate speech is a risk of becoming 'normal' and is fuelled by some sections of the media. Following a criminal report filed by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Sredets concluded in July that Dinko Valev, a vigilante, incited people to discrimination, hatred and violence against refugees and that widespread media coverage of his statements was an aggravating factor. Civil society also reported several cases of censorship of the Bulgarian media in the first half of 2016, while concerns continue to be raised over a lack of transparency in how government advertising is allocated and the opacity of media ownership.

Peaceful Assembly

In April, protestors took to the streets to voice their opposition to changes to the electoral code which would make it more difficult for Bulgarians living abroad to vote in elections. In response, the Bulgarian president vetoed the amendments and sent them back to parliament for further consideration. Protestors also opposed the introduction of compulsory voting, believing that this change is aimed at limiting citizens' political rights. Also in April, the arrest of migrants by vigilantes at the border with Turkey sparked protests; the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) helped human rights activists and citizens to file a criminal report against the Bulgarian Prime Minister who praised the vigilantes in a statement.

Association

Due to legal changes introduced this year, registration of civil society organisations is now transferred from the authority of the court to a Registry Agency. Bulgarian CSOs are concerned that this change in law could negatively impact their activities while they become accustomed to complying with the new regulations. In response, the Bulgarian Center for Non-Profit Law is organising training sessions around the country during which it will present the changes in registration procedures.